Gibson is a giant when it comes to electric guitars and other instruments. That goes without saying. They make some of the best and most iconic models you can find, while their signature tone has become somewhat of a legend on its own.
This company has built their reputation over a long period of time, achieving the level of excellence only a few ever do. So why in the world would they go and release a monstrosity that we know today as Gibson Signature Series in cooperation with Baldwin?
If you are taken back by such a harsh criticism right of the bat, we owe you an explanation. Gibson was always adamant about which guitars can have their brand on the headstock.
That is the reason why Epiphone is considered to be low cost version of Gibson. With that said, Epiphone guitars are excellent for the most part, offering a pretty impressive performance across the range.
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When even such guitars don’t deserve to have a Gibson logo on them, it’s completely surprising that they would go ahead and put that same logo on a guitar that is complete trash.
For some unknown reason, Gibson thought it would be a great idea to work with Baldwin in order to produce a very affordable guitar that has that iconic Les Paul shape, that is aimed at beginners and those who just want a cheap electric guitar.
Now, no matter how limited they are by the price tag, you would still expect anything that bears the Gibson logo to at least sound decent, right? What they managed to deliver can only be described as Gibson’s darkest secret. A blunder of such magnitude that almost ruined their perfectly good image.
This guitar sports a standard Les Paul shape with a mahogany body that is finished with a nice sunburst design. The neck is a bolt on piece, which is already pretty strange for a Les Paul. However, considering the price of this guitar which was cheaper than most Epiphones, that is to be expected.
Besides, a bolt on neck is the least of its problems. Choice of electronics came down to a generic set of humbuckers that didn’t even come with a cover. Fretboard was standard rosewood with typical dot inlays. Hardware they chose for this model is barely mediocre.
The Tune-O-Matic bridge is somewhat decent, but the tuners are barely capable of holding a tuning. If you need to change tuning often, you will start running into problems quite soon. Aside from the hardware, so far it’s nothing out of ordinary for a budget guitar.
The main issue with the Baldwin Gibson Signature Series is not the quality of the elements that form the guitar, but the way those parts were put together.
This guitar was notorious for having ridiculously bad frets to a point where they would fall out. This model was produced in China, but even the worst Chinese guitars have to pass some kind of quality control. Not this ‘Gibson’ though. To say that you had to take this guitar from the store directly to a shop to get setup would be an understatement of the century. It came out of the factory almost unplayable at times. Everything about it was just wrong.
Given the quality of everything we mentioned earlier, the sound you got from one of these was unsurprisingly mediocre. However we can cut it some slack in this depart, but just a small amount since it was designed to be a beginners guitar.
A tool you would use to learn how to play those first chords. Even so, the performance is completely unacceptable for a model that has a Gibson logo on it. Pickups were simply under powered, and there was nothing you could do about it. Cleans sounded artificial while distortion offered almost no sustain at all.
If you dared to mess with the pickup selector switch, or even adjust the tone, you were risking complete failure. What many people found out the hard way is that a large number of these guitars came wired so poorly that you would have to re-solder almost the whole circuit. You can only imagine what kind of effect that had on the sound of this guitar.
What we like
Nothing. Absolutely nothing about this guitar is worth of praise, not even the finish. It’s a laughable instrument that should never have been made in the first place.
What we don’t like
This is a rare occasion where the whole article above can be put under this section. Gibson disgraced themselves with this ‘Signature Series’ in a way that we honestly didn’t think was possible. At this point it’s worth saying that a lucky few probably picked some semi decent guitars.
However just like how finding a bad guitar from a thousand good ones is a fluke in production. Finding a good Gibson Signature Series in a sea of bad ones is a fluke as well.
Taking everything into account
Baldwin Gibson Signature Series was discontinued soon after it was first released. That was the only good thing that came out of this whole ordeal. If you ever run into this guitar on the used market, we suggest you run away as far as you can.
Even if it was given to you for free, you would have to spend a lot of money to get it into a decent working condition. Even then it would be a sub par guitar. Better go buy the cheapest Squier, at least you know what you’re buying.
Aside from the Les Paul variant, there was also an SG version of this guitar. As you can imagine, it was equally as bad. There is simply no other explanation we can come up with as to why Gibson even got involved in this project aside from making a quick profit based on their reputation.
Needless to say, that idea backfired in the worst possible way. Gibson Signature Series will always be remembered as the lowest point Gibson ever reached. And that is a good thing. Hopefully this ridiculous guitar will come back to haunt them if they ever decide to pull a similar stunt again.
6 thoughts on “Gibson’s Dark Secret, Signature Series”
Stay away from these!!! They are no longer in production, but even getting a used one is a con
I’ve had one of these, and it feels like Gibson just wanted to make a quick proffit. Back then I loved the guitar and everything about it. That is, until I tried something legit. Only then do you realize just how underwhelming this thing is to say the least.
This was my first guitar, and while it wasn’t even close to an epiphone or something similar, it was better than those trash squires.
I was amazed Gibson kept the Les Paul headstock on this model. I found one with missing strings, bridge & knobs for $50 at a pawn shop. I was going to let it go but I couldn’t resist the classic Les Paul sunburst and headstock. The thing didn’t even work. I took it to the shop and they fixed it. I then purchased gold Style Les Paul knobs & did the setting myself. For a total of $110, I have a very classic Les Paul style looking guitar, and it plays and sounds good.
Just did the same, my friend wanted to get rid of it but for $50 I thought it would be a good project…debating if its worth throwing an adustable bridge and pickups on it…maybe sanding down those frets lol?
I found a Epoch version and did some mods. Changed out out the one peice wrap around bridge to tune o matic 2 peice bridge and tailstop, replaced the pick ups with seymour duncans.Bought a les paul standard truss cover and changed the treble badge and knobs to cream cause the guitar was all black with a white edgeing on the body.Change the tuning keys to orginal gibson keys.upgraded the nut to a white graphtech.Upgraded the electronics with Epiphone kit i bought on line.With little bit of soldering work and some aligning drilling the tailstop holes dint take much effort just make sure the holes are sized and exact location. I liked it played nice and yes i put a few dollars in it but i had the satisfaction of it being mine.